Bearing Each Other’s Burdens

Unemployment in our Minnesota county has reached 12. 3%. Our local newspaper said, the more than 14,000 people out of the labor force outnumber the census numbers for our city. My husband, a bishop for the LDS church, said, “That explains a lot.”

A lot of job loss, a lot of hardship, a lot of stress, a lot of making do and doing without.

When even one member of the community suffers, the weight touches many. If a contractor loses his job, he or she cannot pay the piano teacher or day care provider, who may not be able to pay his or her doctor. The doctor, in turn, will have to cut costs, which may mean fewer hours for someone else. Multiply that over and over to understand what my husband means when he says, “That explains a lot.” We’re all carrying the burden of this recession.

The burden a snowfall on my deck

A similar ripple occurs—even though that ripple may be less obvious—when one of us suffers in any physical, mental, spiritual or emotional way.

When my friend suffers, I also suffer.  That friend may ask for my continued love. And I would hope that I could always give it. I would hope that I could always say, “Yes, I will carry your burden with you. I will give and suffer with you.”

Honestly, it’s easier to say, and harder to do.

Can I be long suffering? Can I be a true friend, knowing it will tap my own reserves? What if their suffering drags me into the same poverty of spirit? Do I walk away to protect myself?

Sometimes when the burden is heavy, I would rather—figuratively speaking—sell my house, get a job somewhere else and find a new community.  And sometimes that’s the right move.  But, just as not many houses are selling right now, jobs are not easy to find, and it’s not much better in another place, friendships can’t relocate, either.

The real suffering of a friend has intermingled with my own, and my husband reminded me how I can bear her burden with her. His answer for my situation was, “Back off the intensity, just not the frequency.”

My answer isn’t for everyone. What is yours? How do you hold on to your reservoir of strength at the same time as you extend your hand?

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4 Comments

  1. Debs
    Mar 7, 2009

    HI TJ 🙂
    I dont think we often see the bigger picture in these situations till it starts affecting us, and maybe even then we dont always grasp it to its fullest.

    Your husband offered some fab advice there, something similar to what I was advised a while ago. We cant always physically do all the right things to help our friends when they need us but we can always be there for them at their pace, in their way and in their time. There is nothing in this world more powerful that unconditional love, be it to our children, our family, our friends or strangers, when all is said and done, love never hurt anyone, only actions and choices.

    Have a wonderful weekend!
    Debs

  2. Liz
    Mar 8, 2009

    My husband had a similar answer for me the other day…I was feeling guilty for not “doing more” for a friend. I felt like I should have gone a step further and he said to me that maybe just my smile and kind words were exactly what she needed. I think sometimes we can be too hard on ourselves but I completely understand not wanting to go down with a sinking ship. If you can’t be a lifesaver just try being a buoy.

  3. Liz
    Mar 8, 2009

    I fixed my URL. This should get you to the right place now.

  4. An Ordinary Mom
    Mar 11, 2009

    I have really been struggling lately with this balance question … how much do I sacrifice in the name of service while still trying not to run faster than I have strength? I am still quite perplexed.

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